DENVER, Oct. 22, 2019 — Since 1998, tens of thousands of young people have been involved in FOCUS, who after graduation often transition into parish life and continue lifelong Catholic mission in their families and communities. Among these FOCUS alumni, 867 individuals have made decisions to pursue Catholic religious vocations.
To date, 662 of those 867 FOCUS alumni who have chosen to pursue religious callings have been men, many of whom are studying for the priesthood in diocesan seminaries, while the remaining 205 have been women entering a religious house of formation. More than 75 religious orders have received someone who was previously affiliated with FOCUS, including the Sisters of Life, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia (Nashville Dominicans), the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara (Servidoras), the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph.
In line with the spirit of National Vocation Awareness Week (NVAW), celebrated Nov. 3 – 9 across the U.S. to promote vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life, FOCUS encourages and supports vocations to the priesthood and religious life through prayer, relationship and service opportunities. Many young people involved with FOCUS, including student and missionary alumni, choose to discern a religious vocation as a result of their experience with FOCUS, whether through Bible studies, discipleship, FOCUS national events or mission trips with FOCUS Missions, one of the largest Catholic missions programs in the world. During MY19, 2,500 participants went on nearly 140 FOCUS Missions trips hosted in 50 countries.
Brother Derek Edwards, M.O.P., is an aspirant with the Jamaica-based Missionaries of the Poor. He first encountered the community, along with his desire to discern a religious vocation, through his involvement with FOCUS as a college student.
“I couldn’t have discerned a vocation with the Missionaries of the Poor on my own,” said Br. Edwards. “Practically, the Lord chose FOCUS as the means through which I would directly encounter the M.O.P. I am overwhelmed at the support I’ve received over the years and continue to receive at this moment from my FOCUS family.”
While Br. Edwards was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, he met FOCUS team director Travis Todd, who invited Edwards to Bible study. While he declined invitations to Bible study, Edwards did accept the invitation to attend the national FOCUS event, SEEK2015, where he encountered a more complete understanding of the love of Christ through keynotes, prayer, daily Mass and his fellow attendees. The semester following SEEK, Edwards experienced a growth in his prayer life and commitment to mission.
“[That semester] I was taking a gen-ed class, Global Infectious Diseases, where I learned a great deal about the reality of poverty in Haiti,” explained Br. Edwards. “At the same time, Jesus was asking me to be open to discerning the priesthood/religious life. I recognized a burning desire to bring God to His people and bring people to God.”
The following semester, FOCUS missionaries introduced Edwards to FOCUS Missions. As a branch of FOCUS dedicated specifically to evangelization through corporal and spiritual works of mercy to those in need, FOCUS Missions encourages participants to pursue a deeper relationship with Christ and inspires them to consider a religious calling. Edwards applied for a 2017 FOCUS Missions trip to Haiti to serve alongside the Missionaries of the Poor.
“I appreciated the balance of work, prayer and community that FOCUS and the Missionaries of the Poor allowed us to have,” said Br. Edwards, describing the experience. “It was a gift to encounter the poor with fellow FOCUS students and grow together during that week. I enjoyed the intimacy we were able to share in the Brothers’ lives and their lives with the poor.”
“I have learned primarily one thing from my experience in FOCUS, which has been consistent through discernment: how to receive and how to give the love of Christ,” added Br. Edwards. “It hurts to do both, but the joy we receive is unnegotiable. How could we not receive what the Lord has offered to us? And how could we not owe our lives completely to Him — at the service of the last, the least and the lost — for what He’s done for us?”
The Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) was founded in 1998 and invites college students into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church, inspiring and equipping them for a lifetime of Christ-centered evangelization, discipleship and friendships in which they lead others to do the same. FOCUS has more than 730 missionaries in the field, serving 164 campuses and eight parishes across the U.S. and Europe. Tens of thousands of students have been involved with FOCUS, who after graduation have the opportunity to move into parish life to continue their missionary work. Among these FOCUS alumni, 867 have made decisions to pursue Catholic religious vocations. By 2022, FOCUS expects — God willing — to have 75,000 students transitioned into many of America’s 17,000+ Catholic parishes. FOCUS missionaries are typically recent college graduates who devote two or more years of their post-collegiate lives to reach out to peers on campus. focus.org